Advertisement

Psychopharmacology

, Volume 172, Issue 2, pp 157–164 | Cite as

Effects of beta-adrenoceptor blockade on components of human decision-making

  • R. D. RogersEmail author
  • M. Lancaster
  • J. Wakeley
  • Z. Bhagwagar
Original Investigation

Abstract

Rationale

Converging evidence from studies with neurological patients and brain imaging studies with healthy volunteers suggests that the capacity to make choices between actions associated with probabilistic rewards and punishments depends upon a network of cortico-limbic systems including the orbitofrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, amygdala and striatum. The involvement of such structures highlights the emotional aspects of decision-making and suggests that decision-making may be sensitive to manipulations of the catecholamine systems that innervate these structures. In this study, we investigated the possible role of noradrenaline (NA).

Objective

We examined the effects of a single oral 80 mg dose of the beta-adrenoceptor blocker, propranolol, on the decision-making of healthy volunteers in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, between-subjects design.

Methods

Seventeen volunteers ingested a placebo while 15 volunteers ingested propranolol. Visual analogue scales, and self-reported positive and negative ratings, were used to assess subjective changes and mood. Vital signs were also monitored. Seventy-five minutes after treatment, volunteers were asked to make a series of choices between two simultaneously presented gambles, differing in the magnitude of possible gains (i.e. reward), the magnitude of possible losses (i.e. punishment), and the probabilities with which these outcomes were delivered. Volunteers also chose between gambles probing identified non-cognitive biases in human decision-making, namely, risk-aversion when choosing between gains and risk-seeking when choosing between losses.

Results

Propranolol treatment did not result in gross changes in subjective state or mood in comparison to placebo, but did slow heart rate significantly. Propranolol produced a selective change in volunteers’ decision-making; namely, it significantly reduced the discrimination between large and small possible losses when the probability of winning was relatively low and the probability of losing was high.

Conclusions

These results suggest that NA modulates the processing of punishment signals when choosing between probabilistic rewards and punishments under conditions of increased arousal.

Keywords

Choice Decision-making Noradrenaline Reward Punishment Arousal 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Margaret Lancaster was supported by Wellcome Trust Vacation Scholarship (2001). Zubin Bhagwagar is funded by a MRC Clinical Training Fellowship.

References

  1. Abercrombie ED, Jacobs BL (1987). Single unit response of noradrenergic neurones in the locus coeruleus of freely moving cats. I. Acutely presented stressful and non-stressful stimuli. J Neurosci 7:2844–2848PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Amaral DG, Sinnamon HM (1977) The locus ceoruleus: neurobiology of a central noradrenergic nucleus. Prog Neurobiol 9:147–196CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bechara A, Tranel D, Damasio H, Damasio AR (1996) Failure to respond automatically to anticipated future outcomes following damage to prefrontal cortex. Cereb Cortex 6:215–225PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bechara A, Damasio H, Damasio AR, Lee GP (1999) Different contributions of the human amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex to decision-making. J Neurosci 19:5473–5481PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Beversdorf DQ, White DM, Chever DC, Hughes JD, Bornstein RA (2002) Central beta-adrenergic modulation of cognitive flexibility. Neuroreport 13:2505–2507PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bond A, Lader M (1974) The use of anologue scales in rating subjective feelings. Br J Med Psychol 47:211–218Google Scholar
  7. Bush G, Vogt BA, Holmes J, Dale AM, Greve D, Jenike MA, Rosen BR (2002) Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex: a role in reward-based decision-making. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99:523–528CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Cahill L, Prins B, Weber M, McGaugh JL (1994) Beta-adrenergic activation and memory for emotional events. Nature 371:702–704PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Charney DS, Heninger GR, Breier A (1984) Noradrenergic function in panic anxiety. Effects of yohimbine in healthy subjects and patients with agoraphobia and panic disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry 41:751–763PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Cruickshank JM, Prichard BNC (1988) Beta-blockers in clinical practice. Churchill Livingstone, London, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Currie D, Lewis RV, McDevitt DG, Nicholson AN, Wright NA (1988) Central effects of beta-adrenoceptor antagonists. I. Performance and subjective assessments of mood. Br J Clin Pharmacol 26:121–128PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Elliot R, Friston KJ, Dolan RJ (2000) Dissociable neural responses in human reward systems. J Neurosci 20:6159–6165PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Ellis ME, Kesner RP (1983) The noradrenergic system of the amygdala in aversive information processing. Behav Neurosci 97:399–415CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Everitt BJ, Robbins TW, Gaskin M, Fray PJ (1983) The effects of lesions to ascending noradrenergic neurones on discrimination learning and performance in the rat. Neuroscience 10:397–410CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Goldstein WM, Hogarth RM (1997) Research on judgment and decision-making. Currents, connections and controversies. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  16. Grant SJ, Huang YH, Redmond DE (1980) Benzodiazepines attenuate single unit activity in the locus coeruleus. Life Sci 27:2231–2236CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Gray JA (1982) The neuropsychology of anxiety. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  18. Harmer CJ, Perrett DI, Cowen PJ and Goodwin GM (2001) Administration of the beta-adrenoceptor blocker propranolol impairs the processing of facial expressions of sadness. Psychopharmacology 154:383–389PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Howell DC (1987) Statistical methods for psychology. PWS Publishers, BostonGoogle Scholar
  20. Jacobs BL (1987) Central monoaminergic neurones: single unit studies in behaving animals. In: Meltzer HY (ed) Psychopharmacology: the third generation of progress. Raven Press, New York, pp 159–169Google Scholar
  21. Kahneman D, Tversky A (1979) Prospect theory: an analysis of decision-making. Econometrica 47:263–291Google Scholar
  22. Mason ST, Fibiger HC (1979) Anxiety: the locus coeruleus disconnection. Life Sci 25:2141–2147CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Mason ST, Iversen SD (1979) Theories of dorsal bundle extinction effect. Brain Res Rev 1:107–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mealy K, Ngey N, Gillen P, Fitzpatrick G, Keane FB, Tanner A (1996) Propranolol reduces anxiety associated with day case surgery. Eur J Surg 162:4–11Google Scholar
  25. Nelson HE (1982) National Adult Reading Test (NART) test manual. NFER-Nelson, WindsorGoogle Scholar
  26. Neophytou SI, Aspley S, Butler S, Beckett S, Marsden CA (2001) Effects of lesioning noradrenergic neurones in the locus coeruleus on conditioned and unconditioned behaviour in the rat. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 25:1307–1321CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. O’Carroll RE, Drysdale E, Cahill L, Shajahan P, Ebmeier KP (1999) Memory for emotional material: a comparison of central versus peripheral beta blockade. J Psychopharmacol 13:32–39PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Redmond DE, Huang YH (1979) Current concepts II. New evidence for a locus coeruleus-norepinephrine connection with anxiety. Life Sci 25:2149–2162PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Robbins TW, Everitt BJ (1995) Central norepinephrine neurons and behavior. In: Bloom FE, Kupfer DJ (eds) Psychopharmacology: the fourth generation of progress. Raven Press, New York, pp 363–372Google Scholar
  30. Rogers RD, Everitt BJ, Baldacchino A, Blackmore AJ, Swainson R, London M, Deakin JWF, Sahakian BJ, Robbins TW (1999a) Dissociating deficits in the decision-making cognition of chronic amphetamine abusers, opiate abusers, patients with focal damage to prefrontal cortex, and tryptophan-depleted normal volunteers: evidence for monoaminergic mechanisms. Neuropsychopharmacology 20:322–329PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Rogers RD, Owen AM, Middleton HC, Pickard J & TW Robbins TW (1999b) Decision-making in humans activates multiple sites within orbital prefrontal cortex: a PET study. J Neurosci 20:9029–9038Google Scholar
  32. Rogers RD, Tunbridge EM, Bhagwagar Z, Drevets WC, Sahakian BJ, Carter CS (2002) Tryptophan depletion alters the decision-making of healthy volunteers through altered processing of reward cues. Neuropsychopharmacology 1:1–10Google Scholar
  33. Sara SJ, Segal M (1991) Plasticity of sensory responses of locus coeruleus neurones in the behaving rat: behavioral implications. Prog Brain Res 88:571–585PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Selden NRW, Robbins TW, Everitt BJ (1990) Enhanced behavioural conditioning and context and impaired behavioral and neuroendocrine responses to conditioning stimuli following ceruleo-cortical noradrenergic lesions: support for an attentional hypothesis of central noradrenergic function. J Neurosci 10:531–539PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Selden NRW, Robbins TW, Everitt BJ (1992) Telencephalic but not diencephalic noradrenergic depletion enhances behavioral but not endocrine measures of fear conditioning to contextual stimuli. Behav Brain Sci 43:139–154Google Scholar
  36. Tversky A, Kahneman D (1992) Advances in prospect theory: cumulative representation of uncertainty. J Risk Uncertainty 5:297–323Google Scholar
  37. Upadhyaya AK, Deakin JF, Pennell I (1990) Hormonal response to l-tryptophan infusion: effect of propranolol. Psychoneuroendocrinology 15:309–312CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Watson D, Clark LA, Tellegen A (1988) Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: the PANAS Scale. J Person Social Psychol 54:1063–1070CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. D. Rogers
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Lancaster
    • 1
  • J. Wakeley
    • 1
  • Z. Bhagwagar
    • 1
  1. 1.University Department of PsychiatryWarneford HospitalOxfordUnited Kingdom

Personalised recommendations